Since my comment that I accidentally ran

rm -rf /*

on a NASA server got some attention, I thought I'd explain a bit.

First, I think the actual command I ran (~22 years ago) was:

rm -rf . /*

Now here's why...

Something had created a file with a name starting with - such as -results or similar.

Unix shells interpret the glob as part of the actual command, so rm saw "rm -rf -results file1 file2 file3..."

and it threw an error from an unknown flag.



So the straightforward way to handle this is to simply run:

rm ./*

which deletes all the files in the current directory.

-rf is known to most people. It just means "recusively delete everything without prompting"

The extra space was a typo.

And yes, running that blew the server away, even though I caught it and Ctrl-C.

We had regular backups and I simply had to shut the host down and restore it from backup. The user data was not affected (luckily) as it lived on external nfs storage.

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Yup. It was apparently common enough, and also no one really needs to delete / except in possibly the most odd circumstance.

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